Aimed at the primary school market, Centerprise's NB450 - T14 Portable PC has alot to offer. But, as Jack Kenny discovers, it may have just a little further to go
ON THE SURFACE, this is a good machine with much to recommend it. There is the large, clear screen with dimensions of a normal monitor. The keyboard is for normal fingers. However, there was no DVD drive on the review model.
It is pre-loaded with primary school software developed at the Woodstock Centre in Leicester. Someone has thought: "We need to appeal to primary schools. So let's get some software from the Woodstock Centre to compete with RM's Window Box PCs."
The software from the Woodstock Centre is comprehensive in its range but it is a pity that it is so poorly integrated with the machine. Now, let's think how it could have been done. Some children would like a portable that they can carry with ease, a portable portable. The heavier laptops are termed "luggable". The Centerprise machine is not a luggable but it is heavier than a young child should have to carry, especially to and from school. The lightest portable I have reviewed recently, a Fujitsu Lifebook, weighed in at just less than 3 lbs, this one is 6.6 lbs - a big difference to a child.
It should also be remembered that teachers and pupils make much more varied use of computers than people do in business. Cameras, scanners, printers and dataloggers are routinely used and a USB port is ideal for that. It means that they can change devices all the time without having to stop to restart the machine. However, I was unable to find a USB port on this machine, although the company says it has adopted USB.
Primary schools also keep machines for longer than anyone else and so they need to future-proof their machines. A DVD drive is now essential becuse they are becoming widely used already. The truth is that, with a portable or laptop, both manufacturers and buyers have to be very clear about how it will be used, where it will be used and who will use it. So many decisions flow from that.
The Woodstock software is good, however, and will see a teacher and pupil over many hurdles in the national curriculum. For the experienced teacher it does not have the locked-up feel that other primary systems have. Inexperienced teachers, however, value the spoon-feeding of a pure Window Box type of machine.
If a teacher wants to spend time undoing the convolutions that even a non-malevolent child can weave into Microsoft Windows, fine. If, on the other hand, they want to get on with work, they will need more protection than they have the way this machine is set up.
On the bright side, the system comes with Go Back software pre-installed that will help in eradicating some pupil-induced errors.
To summarise, there is nothing wrong with the machine apart from the lack of DVD (Centerprise now says it is available for an extra pound;125). There is, for this purpose, nothing wrong with the software. Centerprise will develop a better machine for primary pupils but it will need more thought, ensuring fitness for purpose and system integration.
Centerprise NB450 - T14 Portable PC Price: pound;1,195 + VAT Dimensions of 305mm x 250mm x 39mm; Intel Celeron Modular Processor 500MHz, with 64Mb SDRAM Memory; 6.4Gb IDE Hard Disk Drive; 24x Speed CD-Rom; 1.44Mb 3.5" Floppy Disk Drive; 14.1" TFT XGA Display PanelGo Back runs on any recent PC and costs pound;55.99. www.centerprise.co.uk Online star rating:Centerprise's NB450 - T14 Portable PC Suitability for purpose **
Ease of use ****
Value for money **